Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some Pirate thoughts

Ryan Doumit's temper tantrum last week is inexcusable for a team that is in a rebuilding mode. Depending on what you believe, Doumit is unhappy because he either misses his friends, who were traded away in the latest organizational shakeup, or is frustrated from a miserable season. A wrist injury is the culprit for his poor numbers. Doumit was supposed to be one of the leaders on the team. It's looking more like he'll be one of the traded commodities in the rebuilding, especially if he has a strong September.

Speaking of which, I got into a discussion with one of my friends about whether a strong September really means anything. He believes it does; I believes it doesn't matter at all. Suppose the Pirates win their last 10 games of the season, then go on a nearly five-month break before spring training begins. How does that carry over? I don't think it does. Winning the last 10 games of September means that you had a nice winning streak at the end of the season. Period.

The more I watch Charlie Morton pitch, the more I wonder whether he will contribute to the Pirates next season. He just isn't very effective right now. Maybe playing winter ball might help.

If you were looking for some positives about the organizations this year, then consider this: The Pirates now have players in their minor league system who could replace someone who falters with the big league. If, for example, Andy LaRoche falters at third base, Pedro Alvarez or Neil Walker could take his place. In the outfield, Jose Tabata is an option. That, at least, is a sign of improvement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Strasburg signs, now the disappointment comes

The Washington Nationals signed ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg to a $15.1 million deal at the draft deadline Monday. Now, they have to keep their fingers crossed. He is almost sure to disappoint, that is, if history keeps pace.

Thomas Boswell points out in his column:

Since 1965, when the draft began, only one pitcher taken in the top 18 spots in the first round has ever won 200 or more games (Kevin Brown). All-time greats? There's not one out of more than 300 such selections. Based on the history of high picks, Strasburg should be viewed as having a good chance to become a very good pitcher. But not more. No pitcher taken in the first four overall picks has ever won a Cy Young Award or made more than two all-star teams. Worst of all, major health concerns, such as the elbow surgery that top Nats prospect Jordan Zimmermann now needs, demonstrate the fragility of pitchers,

Mark Prior's name came up during the negotiations but that was a mistake. Prior was a bust, ravaged up by injuries. It was a waste of the $10.5 million deal he signed in 2001.

Today, Washington players and fans can celebrate the Strasburg signing. The organization has a pitcher who might be something special. History says no, but one can always hope.

BTW, the threats of Strasburg not signing and sitting out the season were bogus. When Washington announced an offer past Prior's $10.5 million, Strasburg had to sign. Had he turned down the offer, it would have been one of the most stupid economic decisions in the history of America.


Because he had nowhere else to go. Forget the Independent leagues, forget Japan. Strasburg would have lost millions and would have awoken every day knowing an injury would make that money go away.

Also, Washington couldn't take Strasburg next year, unless he agreed to be drafted the Nats. So either Kansas City, Pittsburgh or San Diego would have probably drafted him. The Lerner family, which owns the Nats, is one of baseball's wealthiest and can afford to gamble on this deal. The other teams could not.

Whatever team drafted Strasburg next year would have a huge negotiating advantage. He could sit out a second season but now he would possibly be losing money - tens of millions - when he hit free agency in his early 30s instead of late 20s. He would have had no other option, except accepting the deal.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

When it goes wrong

Here is the link to a great story about a pitching prospect who made the wrong choices in negotiations.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The price you pay

The Chicago Cubs handed the Pirates one of the worst losses in franchise history Friday, 17-2. It was 14-0 after two innings and the Pirates played like an amateur team. Starting pitcher Charlie Morton could not have been worse, unless he threw underhanded. The offense stunk again.

Welcome to the post-trade Pirates.

The big question is how many of you can take the rebuilding process if there are more games like this one? You see, that is the problem with rebuilding. Even if you agree with the way Neal Huntington traded away major league talent for future victories, the price you pay are games like the one with the Cubs.

Other rebuilding plans went awry because the pressure to get a win, any win, was so great that the plans were scrapped before they had time to flourish. General managers, fearing for their jobs, dove into the free-agent market, overpaying for players they hoped would add to the win total.

It didn't work.

So this is what you have to put up with in a rebuilding era, games such as this. Whether Huntington has the guts to stay with it for another two or three years will determine whether the Pirates actually have a chance to be competitive.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thoughts on the Pirates

Watched a feature on Pirates top prospect Pedro Alvarez (left) and was surprised to see that he appears to have gained some weight. He has a pear-shaped body and a large backside. While the extra weight has not seemed to bother Alvarez's hitting or fielding, the Pirates should get him on a weight plan this winter.

The Pirates should be concerned that Kevin Hart did not meet with the media following his Pittsburgh debut. According to the John Perrotto of, Hart avoided talking to the press after the game. So what, you say? So this. The Pirates are at the bottom of the league in attendance and as football season intensifies, the crowds will shrink. The Pirates need all the exposure they can get with these new players and Hart not talking to the media makes fans upset and makes Hart look like he has an attitude problem.

This season is shaping as an important one for manager John Russell. The Pirates could lose 100 games this season, the locker room is filled with inexperienced players and most might not be sure exactly how to conduct themselves on and off the field. I won't judge Russell on wins and losses. I will judge him on how the Pirates respond to his coaching and how hard they play. It's the only legitimate way to evaluate Russell.

The Pirates' bullpen is aweful. One of the ways this team can improve next season is to rebuild the bullpen, most likely through free agency because the minors don't appear to have anyone ready to make the next step.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Giving up the ghost

Steelers open camp Friday.
That is good news for the Pirates organization, which hoisted the white flag on the season Wednesday by trading away shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez. The purge is probably complete as eight starters (not including pitchers) from the opening day lineup are gone.
These last moves assured a 17th consecutive losing season, the longest for any North American professional sports organization in history.
Well, at lest the Pirates are No. 1 in something.
The trades have left the Pirates in shambles. It is an awful team, maybe even worse the the Washington Nationals. I didn't think that was possible. It's difficult to lose 100 games in a major league season but the Pirates now have the pieces in place to do so.
Maybe you can defend these moves as a way to build a winner, except the Pirates are incredibly inept at developing talent. Quick, name one player this organization has drafted and developed into a star, or even a top-notch major leaguer.
Can't do it, can you?
So it's easy to see why Pirates fans have little or no faith in this organization's ability to build a quality team. It's a reputation that has been earned.
Just look at pitcher Ian Snell, a 20th-round selection who appeared to be the exception to this organization's dismal ability to handle players. He is in Seattle now, dumped there after a tumultuous year.
Why should Pittsburgh fans believe it will be any different with the players the Pirates received in return for this summer selloff?
Last season's trades of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady brought new faces, but none of them shows star potential. And some, such as outfielder Brandon Moss, are apalling inept. Even the success stories from those deals - pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton, and third baseman Andy LaRoche - are no more than above-average players.
The Pirates have insured a losing season for this and most likely the next three seasons. Their payroll, post trades, is just above $30 million so there is money available for free agent signings.
But who would want to play here?
The remainder of this season will be depressingly similary to next, and maybe the next, a continual string of losing that might be stopped if the organization can develop talent.
General manager Neal Huntington is gambling his job that these moves will turn the team around. If he is right, then he will be considered a hero in the eyes of long-suffering fans.
If he fails, then the next five-year plan will go into place with a new general manager. It's the Pirates' way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sanchez traded to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO - The Giants announce they have acquired second baseman Freddy Sanchez from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Minor League pitcher Tim Alderson.

For Sanchez, joining the Giants was a matter of walking from one clubhouse to the other. San Francisco completed a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh with a 1-0 victory Wednesday.

Sanchez, a three-time All-Star and the National League's 2006 batting champion, didn't play in the series due to a sore left knee. That reportedly threatened to scuttle the deal, but Giants management obviously decided to go ahead with the move.

The Giants parted with right-hander Tim Alderson, one of their top pitching prospects, in the deal.

Alderson, 20, has compiled a 6-1 record with 3.47 ERA in 13 starts for Double-A Connecticut this season. In 72 2/3 innings, he has allowed 76 runs while walking 14 and striking out 46.